Return  Revision Date - 7/30/04

Section 5: North of Da Nang, 1969 SLF Operations, Hill 41, and Withdrawal in 1970

Hill 190, Daring Rebel, Pipestone Canyon, Bold Pursuit, Mighty Play, Defiant Stand, and Hill 41

January 1969

The Delta Co. CP continues to be located on Hill 190. The NVA are believed to be massing for a general offensive against Da Nang installations during Tet. Contact with the enemy and prisoners indicates that they are moving south into staging areas in the foothills.

Joint Marine, CAP, and South Vietnamese operations include the Clean Sweep cordon with a company of Regional Forces and the defense plan for the Hai Van Pass, which involves Regional forces.

Pacification efforts in Quang Nam have not gone as well as others areas because security is a problem and the GVN presence is not as established. To counter these problems, a greater emphasis is to placed on population security and improving South Vietnam’s armed forces. Part of this approach is an increase in joint actions with South Vietnamese forces. Another element of this program involves the creation of the People's Self Defense Forces (PSDF), which will arm citizens for their own self defense.

January 23, 1969

A platoon of Delta Co. makes contact with 25-50 enemy. Two additional squads arrive by truck to join the fight and are accompanied by two tanks. One of the tanks and the truck hit a mine. The 2nd Platoon goes upriver by LTV, lands, and sweeps the area, finding and destroying a harbor site. The NVA/VC withdraw. One enemy is KIA and seven Marines are WIA.

February 1969

Evidence of an enemy build-up around the Da Nang Vital Area increases as patrols find signs of increased enemy presence early in the month.

February 8, 1969

Delta Co. engages an enemy unit and suffers five wounded.

February 16-18, 1969

The truce for Tet 1969 begins and is followed by terrorist acts, rocket and mortar attacks, and scattered ground action. Another fight occurs on February 18, and three Delta Co. Marines are wounded.

February 22, 1969

Delta Co. First Platoon is engaged in a daytime sweep in the area known as "The Claw" when it runs into a dug-in force. A reactionary force from Hill 190 goes to the aid of 1st Platoon. Four Delta Co. Marines are killed and six more are wounded, including 1stLt. Lawrence Lewis. The following Delta Co. Marines are killed:

Pfc. Woodrow W. Adams, 2/22/69 - Killed in the vicinity of Hill 190

LCpl. Michael Cruse, 2/22/69 - Killed in the vicinity of Hill 190

Cpl. Edward Gum, 2/22/69 – Killed in the vicinity of Hill 190

Cpl. Robert W. Topham, Jr., 2/22/69 - Killed in the vicinity of Hill 190

February 22, 1969

In the evening, a reinforced squad from 2nd Platoon is sent on an ambush southeast of Hill 190 at an area of small hills that is used as an NVA infiltration route. A platoon-sized point element of a large NVA force comes upon the Marines while they are setting up their ambush and initiates contact. Grenades are thrown in all positions, wounding several Marines, including 2ndLt. James Zucarelli. "PUFF" is on station in the area and comes to the aid of the ambush. Another squad-sized ambush about one kilometer away blows its claymores and comes to the aid of the second platoon ambush. For the second time that day, a reactionary force is sent out from Hill 190.

February 23-26, 1969

The enemy's major attack during Tet comes on February 23, when the enemy attempts a coordinated attack on Da Nang. A number of locations are struck; a rocket hits a fuel tank adjacent to the airbase, and the fire burns all night long.

At midnight on February 23, sappers try unsuccessfully to attack the 1st MarDiv and 26th Marines headquarters on the reverse slop of Hill 327. The city is infiltrated, and an attack is made from the south from the heavily populated lowlands. Also, a thrust with major units comes out of the mountains west of Da Nang by the NVA 141st Regiment.

On February 23-24, elements of the 3/7 Marines engage the NVA west of Hill 10 in a series of fierce fights. This fight ends on February 26 with over 200 NVA killed and their Regimental Commander captured.

February 25, 1969

Delta Co. engages an enemy unit and four Marines are wounded.

February , 1969

LtCol G. C. Klieforth replaces LtCol C. H. Knowles as the 1/26 Battalion Commander.

Early March 1969

Delta Co. patrols and ambushes have almost daily contact with small enemy units. On March 1, the 2nd Platoon finds a rocket-launching site. On March 4, the 1st Platoon ambushes 20 enemy, killing four.

March 14, 1969

Delta Co conducts a joint sweep of Quan Nam with CAP 283. While searching the east side of the ville, they open fire on three enemy in a cave, killing two and capturing three weapons.

March 21-29, 1969

Delta Co. is engaged in aggressive patrolling and ambush actions northwest of Da Nang. The following Delta Co. Marines are killed:

Pvt. Mitchel Morton, 3/21/69 - Killed in the vicinity of Hill 190 

Unidentified Marine, 3/27/69 - Killed in the vicinity of Hill 190 [ March 1969 AAR]

LCpl. Julio Malabe, 3/29/69 – Killed in the vicinity of Hill 190

April 1969

The major enemy activity in this period is rice supply missions from Quan Nam and Kim Lien villages during the rice harvest season. In early April, Delta Co. patrols and ambushes have almost daily contact with small enemy units.

April 9, 1969

The 1st Platoon springs an ambush, killing two NVA.

April 11, 1969

The 2nd Platoon ambushes seven enemy, killing three.

April 19, 1969

Delta Co. spots 16-17 enemy crossing the Cu De River on a rice-carrying mission. The company attacks with small arms and 81mm mortar fire. This action results in 11 NVA killed and the capture of 300 pounds of rice.

April 25, 1969

BLT 1/26 embarks on SLF shipping.

May 5-20, 1969

Operation Daring Rebel. The BLT 1/26 Marines land on Barrier Island below Hoi An in an area boxed off on the landslide by a cordon of the ARVN 51st Regiment, Korean Marines, and elements of the Americal Division. Barrier Island, which has long posed a haven for VC/NVA units, is fortified with bunkers, tunnels and fighting holes. Delta Co. is helilifted from USS Okinawa (LPH-3) to LZ Tiger.

Lasting 15 days, the operation is an amphibious application of the County Fair concept. A substantial number of prisoners and quantities of rice are taken.

The following Delta Co. Marines were killed:

LCpl. Kenneth Parker, 5/6/69 - Killed on Barrier Island

Pvt. Ronald Pierce, 5/7/68 - Killed on Barrier Island

Pvt. Sammie Warren, 5/8/69 - Killed on Barrier Island

May 23-25, 1969

Operation Gallant Leader. BLT 1/26 disembarks for operations ashore with the battalion headquarters located at Hill 34 and forward control element at Hill 55. D/1/26 is deployed south of Hill 55 at grid AT 966602 in the vicinity of Cam Van (2). The 1/26 Marines have previously fought in the Dodge City area in Operation Shasta (November 1966), Operation Stone (February 1967), and Operation Allen Brook (May 1968). The company conducts patrols and ambushes. On May 24, a Delta Co. Marine is wounded by a booby trap.

May 26, 1969

Operation Pipestone Canyon begins. This action is a sweep of the Dodge City and Go Noi Island areas. The attack starts as 1/26 and 3/5 move to the east. During the first few days, there is only minor contact. However, BLT 1/26 Marines encounter a heavy volume of booby traps and mines, resulting in a large number of casualties.

Ridding this area of enemy forces has been the goal of numerous Marine actions since 1966, including Operations Allen Brook and Meade River in 1968. The enemy has used this area for staging its attack into the lowland areas south of Da Nang. Current intelligence indicates that these areas harbor 7-10 enemy NVA battalions. The combined area is bordered on the west by the south fork of the Song Vu Gia; on the north by the Son Ai Nghi, Song Lo Tho, and Song Thanh Quit; on the east by Route 1; and on the south by the Song The Bon, Song Ba Ren, Song Chiem Son. A north - south railroad berm bisects the area. Most of the land is flat, but it is covered by rice paddies, thick brush, tangled hedgerows, and vast expanses of tall elephant grass. Nearly two dozen villages and hamlets dot the region

May 27, 1969

The artillery position on Hill 55 is attacked with 82mm mortars and 3 lob 175mm rounds. A/1/13 sustains 3 KIA and 29 WIA.

May 30, 1969

The two battalions have set up their blocking positions just west of the railroad berm. As the Marines move closer to Dodge City and Go Noi Island, enemy resistance picks up. By mid-afternoon on May 30, they have killed 16 NVA but the two Marine Battalions suffered 10 KIA with many wounded. Mines and booby traps cause all the friendly casualties.

May 31, 1969

Delta Co. spots five NVA moving near Giang La (2) and opens. The sweep of the area reveals two VC killed with weapons.  The following Delta Co. Marine was killed:

Pfc. Scott Thornburg, 5/3169 - Latter died of multiple fragmentation wounds

June 1-7, 1969

Operation Pipestone Canyon Phase II commences. As planned, the operation begins with two battalions, BLT 1/26 and 3/5, establishing blocking positions. On June 1, BLT 1/26 establishes its blocking position west of Dodge City along the western portion of Go Noi Island. Next, five battalions attack southward into and through Dodge City, then on into the neighboring Go Noi Island. Enemy resistance stiffens on June 2. Elements of the 3/5 Marines, supported by tanks, destroy enemy strong points. By June 5, the sweeping force has reached the Ky Lam River.

The main enemy tactic is to withdraw to the south and avoid fighting where possible. The enemy threat is the extensive use of booby traps to slow down the advance of Marine units and while the NVA pulled back.

June 7, 1969

Operation Pipestone Canyon Phase II is completed and the 1/26 Marines and supporting units embark aboard SLF Alpha shipping.

Further actions with Operation Pipestone Canyon continue through November 7 with the participation of many other allied units. When the operation is finished, large sections of Go Noi Island are transformed from heavily vegetated area into a treeless region by Marine land clearing operations. The clearing operations are literal with an U.S. Army Engineering Company following the Marines with Rome Plows.

June 27, 1969

Operation Bold Pursuit. The BLT 1/26 Marines land on Barrier Island again to conduct a search and clear operation. Delta Co. is helilifted from USS Iwo Jima (LPH-2) to an unopposed landing. The area has long been used as semi-safe haven and supply base. Only minor enemy contact is encountered.

June 30, 1969

Delta Co. captures weapons and supplies. The 3rd Platoon engages the enemy in a firefight, killing two.

July 1, 1969

The 3rd Marine Division, which has been conducting operations in Quang Tri Province, is designated as part of the initial redeployment of American forces from Vietnam. Previously, on October 26, 1968, the 1st Air Cavalry Division had been relocated from northern I corps to the IIII Corps area for action near the Cambodian border.

Capt. E. J. Lloyd replaces Capt .W.W. Morehead, Jr. as Delta Co. Commander.

July 1-5, 1969

Operation Bold Pursuit continues its thorough search and clear actions on Barrier Island. Delta Co. engages the VC/NVA in a series of small-unit skirmishes, killing three of the enemy and destroying bunkers.

July 6, 1969

Operation Bold Pursuit is ended and BLT 1/26 is embarked aboard SLF shipping.

July 10-20, 1969

Operation Mighty Play. BLT 1/26 is helilifted to the southern end of the 3/1 Marines TAOR to search suspected enemy routes of movement. The target is located on the coast in an area known as the Horseshoe Area, which has long been under VC/NVA control and is a firing site for rocket attacks on Da Nang. Delta Co. conducts squad and platoon-sized patrols to catch enemy moving at night.

On July 10, the 1st Platoon engages a large group of VC/NVA and kills ten.

Booby traps are a major threat. The company blows 15 booby traps in place on July 11. Typhoon Tess strikes on July 11, and heavy rains hamper combat operations.

The company trips four booby traps on July 14 and two more on July 15. These incidents result in many casualties. 

On July 14, 1969 while patrolling and subsequent movement of casualties, the following Delta Co. were killed:

Pfc. Roy Willis, 7/14/69 – Killed during Operation Mighty Play

HM1 Harold Sloan, 7/14/69 – Killed during Operation Mighty Play

Cpl. Smolarek was wounded during this fighting and later died of wounds in Guam.

One of the mines was triggered at the ramp of a CH-46 medevac helicopter and also seriously wounded the crew chief of the helicopter.

July 20-31, 1969

Operation Mighty Play ends and BLT 1/26 assumes the 3/1 Marines TAOR south of Da Nang. Joint cordon and search activities with Vietnamese forces are conducted in several hamlets. In addition, the approaches to probable rocket-launching positions are patrolled extensively, with surveillance of waterways.

The CP for BLT 1/26 is located at the 3/1 Marines cantonment located in the vicinity of Ngan Cau (2) which is east of Route 1 and north of Hoi An (grid BT 071653).

July 28, 1969

LtCol. J. C. Goodin replaces LtCol. G. C. Klieforth as the 1/26 Battalion Commander.

August 1-7, 1969

BLT 1/26 continues the defense of the 3/1 Marines TAOR south of Da Nang. Delta Co. conducts a joint cordon and search with the Vietnamese National Police forces on August 3 in the hamlet of An Tra (1). Booby traps are a major threat during patrol activities, causing several Delta Co. casualties.

August 8, 1969

BLT 1/26 is embarked aboard SLF Alpha shipping, where it remains for the rest of the month and the first week of September.

August 20, 1969

The regimental alignment in Quang Nam Province changes and the 7th Marines shift operations south to the Que Son valley as result of increased NVA activity. The 1st Marines shift their regimental headquarters to Hill 55. Included in their southern boundary are Go Noi Island and Dodge City. The 5th Marines remain at An Hoa.

September 7-19, 1969

Operation Defiant Stand. The target of this landing, the first USMC amphibious assault conducted with the Korean Marine Corps, is the southern portion of Barrier Island. The BLT 1/26 air assaults inland and Vietnamese patrol craft cut off escape routes on Barrier Island, 34 miles south of Da Nang. Twice before this year, the BLT 1/26 has attacked Barrier Island. The enemy avoids contact except for hit-and-run diversionary tactics to cover their withdrawal across the Truong Giang River and to the west. Several times defensive perimeters are mortared with RPG and small arms fire following.

Delta Co. is helilifted from USS Iwo Jima (LPH-2) to an unopposed landing. On September 9, Delta Co. has a firefight, killing three of the enemy. The company finds 31 bunkers and a case of 105 rounds on September 12. The company makes contact with a large number of the enemy on September 13 and is tear-gassed. On September 15, the company is hit with a WP short round, causing a number of casualties.

Operation Defiant Stand is the last of 62 SLF amphibious assaults of the war.

September 20, 1969

Operation Defiant Stand ends, and BLT 1/26 is relocated to the Southwest Da Nang TAOR formerly held by the 2/26 Marines. The CP for 1/26 is Hill 10. Delta Co. is located in the vicinity of Hill 10. With the rice harvest underway, the enemy has started to send patrols to take rice supplies to NVA/VC base areas in the mountains to the west.

September 21-30, 1969

Rocket attacks on the Da Nang Vital Area come from sites located outside the Da Nang defensive barrier. This defensive barrier is officially known as the Da Nang Anti-Infiltration System and is similar to the McNamara line south of the DMZ. The DAIS is introduced in June 1969 and is planned as a ring around the outer edge of the Rocket Belt at a radius of 12,000 meters around the air base, which is the maximum range of the 122mm rocket. The planned barrier system will be a 500-meter cleared belt of land containing two barbed wire fences, electronic sensors, observation towers, and minefields.

Late September 1969

After completion of Operation Defiant Stand, SLF shipping is assigned as lift for the deployment of Marines from Vietnam.

October 1969

The mission of 1/26 in the Southwest Da Nang TAOR is to support accelerated pacification programs, provide security for the construction of the Da Nang Anti-Infiltration System (DAIS), and continue rice denial operations. Enemy activity is light. On October 21 and 24, Delta Co. conducts joint cordon and search operations with the Hieu Duc District forces.

November 1969

Once again, it is monsoon season in I Corps. The 1/26 Marines continue their assigned mission in the Southwest Da Nang TAOR.

November 7, 1969

Operation Pipestone Canyon, which began in May, ends. This 5˝-month operation finally clears sizable enemy units from Dodge City and Go Noi Island. In November, it is possible to travel Route 4 from Hoi An to Dai Loc relatively free from harassment. With slightly more risk, one can continue on to Thuong Duc.

November 8, 1969

NVA rocket attacks on the Da Nang Vital Area continue. Thirteen rocket flashes are detected from a firing position west of Hill 41.

November 14, 1969

Delta Co. is relocated to Hill 41 (grid AT 934664), which is northwest of Hill 55 across the Yen River.

December 1969

The 26th Marines are designated as part of the next redeployment. The 1/26 Marines continue their assigned mission in the Southwest Da Nang TAOR. Considerable enemy effort is focused on the collection, transportation, and storage of rice. During patrols from Hill 41, Delta Co. engages the NVA/VC in a series of small-unit clashes.

Late December 1969

The remaining units of the 3rd MarDiv have left Vietnam. On July 1, the 3rd MarDiv is designated as part of the initial redeployment. The plan is to relocate the division between July and September to its former base areas at Okinawa and Camp Pendleton. The withdrawal of the division is possible because of the reduced threat by the NVA in Northern I Corps. After the departure of the 3rd MarDiv, the allied units in northern I corps are the 1st ARVN Division and the 101st Air Cavalry Division.

As the year ends, the tempo of the war has changed. The Marines are no longer encountering the large enemy formations of the past. Since 1966, the VC and NVA have suffered very large losses to the 1st and 3rd Marine Divisions and other allied forces in I Corps. These losses force the North Vietnamese to pause and rebuild forces.

January 1970

The enemy war strategy is now one of avoiding contact with allied forces whenever possible. The war is now one of ambushes, brief skirmishes, and contact with only platoon or smaller-sized enemy units and booby traps.

January 9, 1970

Delta Co. spots a small VC/NVA unit. Tanks illuminate the area and fire 90mm rounds. A sweep of the area finds three NVA killed, a weapon, and other intelligence information.

February 1970

The 1/26 Marines continue their assigned mission in the Southwest Da Nang TAOR. The battalion also makes preparations in terms of equipment and personal for embarkation and withdrawal from Vietnam in March. The Tet/winter-spring offensive fails to materialize in any significant way.

February 13, 1970

The Delta Co. position at Mike Tower receives two incoming LOB bombs. One impacts inside the position, partially destroying a sleeping quarters.

Mid-February 1970

Supporting units for the 1/26 Marines deploy from Vietnam.

March 1970

The 26th Marine Regiment Marines is part of the third U.S. deployment. Between March 11 and 19, the regiment departs South Vietnam. The 1/26 Marines departs Vietnam on March 19, 1970. After these deployments, the 1st Marines assume the TAOR vacated by the 26th Marines, and the regiment turns over their CP on Hill 55 to the 51st ARVN Regiment.

The American forces remaining in I Corps after the first three troop deployments are the 101st Air Cavalry Division in the north, the 1st MarDiv around Da Nang and the Que Son Valley, and the Americal Division in southern I Corps.

The Go Noi Province Chief announces the government's intention to resettle the Go Noi Island area. The plan announced is to construct housing for 17,000 refugees in three hamlets.

April 1970

The 26th Marine Regiment is deactivated when it arrived in California.